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Eye surgery for diabetic retinopathy

Find out how this treatment for diabetic retinopathy works and if it's right for you

Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetic eye disease that involves damage to the retina – the light-sensitive part at the back of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy usually only affects those people who have had diabetes for several years.  

As diabetes becomes worse, high blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in the retina, which can break, bleed and leak fluid. All forms of diabetic eye disease can potentially cause severe vision loss.  

Diabetic macular oedema (also known as diabetic oedema) is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetic retinopathy in the UK. Diabetic oedema involves a swelling of fluid in an area of the retina called the macula, which controls central vision. Around half of all people with diabetic retinopathy will develop diabetic oedema.

Diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular oedema typically have no early warning signs until they start affecting vision. Bleeding from diabetic retinopathy may cause blurred vision. As diabetic retinopathy progresses, common symptoms may include:

  • Seeing small spots ‘floating’ in your vision (floaters);
  • Blurred or distorted central vision;
  • Impaired colour vision and
  • Dark or empty areas in your vision.

A surgical procedure known as vitreoretinal surgery can be used to treat diabetic retinopathy.   

Vitreoretinal surgery is most likely to be recommended if a large amount of blood has collected in your eye, or if there is a lot of scar tissue that is likely to cause or has already caused your retina to detach.  

You will usually have a local anaesthetic along with sedation for the surgery. Your surgeon will make a small slit in your eye, remove some of the excess transparent, jelly-like substance along with scar tissue, and then use a laser to help stop your vision worsening.

You should be able to go home on the same day or the day after your eye surgery. You will possibly need to wear a patch over your eye for a few days.   

Your vision will be blurry after surgery but should improve with time. It might take a few months for it to return to normal.

Eye surgery comes with some risks, such as development of a cataract, bleeding, a build-up of fluid and infection.   

The decision to carry out eye surgery is always a balance of risk versus benefit for the individual patient.

Our 500 trusted eye care experts offer personalised care at over 40 Circle Health centres across the UK.

Our experts in affordable eye care offer fast access to treatment in a safe and comfortable environment.

Your laser treatment will provide the best possible outcome, along with excellent value for money, to help improve your quality of life.  

What you pay will depend on the exact treatment you need. Your final price will be confirmed in writing following your consultation.

Specialists offering Eye surgery for diabetic retinopathy

Mr Husam Elghalhud

Consultant Ophthalmologist

MbbCh, MD, FRCOphth, PGDip Cataract and Refractive surgery

The Sloane Hospital

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Mr Yashin Ramkissoon

Consultant Ophthalmologist


Thornbury Hospital

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